Working life

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Working life

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Working life

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Working life

6 collections results for Working life

6 results directly related Exclude narrower terms

Glasgow dock workers oral history project

  • GB 249 SOHC 18
  • Collection
  • 2009

Oral history project, conducted in 2009 by David Walker of the Scottish Oral History Centre at the University of Strathclyde on behalf of Glasgow Museums, interviewing those who had earned their living working at Glasgow’s docks. A total of 17 men were selected as suitable for the project but in the end only 12 participated, with some becoming ill and others unavailable for interview. Although a smaller cohort was used than originally intended it did provide a representative sample of workers with experience of most of the docks that operated along the Upper Clyde at Glasgow and its environs. The group also had experience of many of the jobs undertaken such as electrician, plan maker and superintendent stevedore, plater, winch operator, checker, and crane driver. One additional respondent was interviewed who had never worked at the docks but had lived at Shiels Farm and had witnessed the opening of the still operational King George V dock in 1931. The average age of those interviewed was 72 with birth dates ranging from 1926 to 1947. All of the interviews were conducted at the respondent’s home with one exception which was conducted at the Scottish Oral History Centre.

The interviews were semi-structured in style which allowed the respondents to talk beyond their working lives. Hence the testimonies provide evidence of the daily work and conditions in which their working lives were undertaken but they also touch on other aspects of their lives, including family relationships, early job opportunities and trade union activities. The respondents were not only generous in donating their memories but also in providing photographic images which help illustrate the people interviewed, the types of ships that they worked on, buildings now demolished, and tasks undertaken such as handling large steel slabs, grain, coal or scrap iron. Although each interview was conducted separately there was some overlap in the recollections mainly due to the fact that many of the men knew each other as workmates and inevitably they were exposed to similar events in their careers.

University of Strathclyde | Scottish Oral History Centre

Men's work in heavy industries in Glasgow oral history project

  • GB 249 SOHC 8
  • Collection
  • Original recordings, 2005

Conversations between Neil Rafeek and two men who spent their working lives as laggers in the Clydeside heavy industries. Topics covered include childhood and growing up in Glasgow, the Clydebank blitz, housing, domestic life, social life, football, sectarianism, gang culture, National Service, working conditions, trade unions, health and safety, asbestos.

Includes notes and draft publications relating to a project about the working culture and notions of masculinity in Clydeside heavy industries.

University of Strathclyde | Scottish Oral History Centre

Oral history project on the changing work identity of Govan's shipbuilders c. 1960-2016

  • GB 249 SOHC 33
  • Collection
  • August - October 2016

Oral history project conducted in 2016 by Rory Stride as research for his undergraduate history dissertation, ‘“Proud to be a Clyde shipbuilder. Clyde built”: The changing work identity of Govan’s shipbuilders, c.1960-present.’ The collection comprises interviews with seven men who were employed as shipbuilders between c.1960 and 2016 at Govan’s three shipyards: Alexander Stephen and Sons, Fairfield’s, and Harland and Wolff. The interviews were conducted in a variety of places across Glasgow. The interview questions were semi-structured and largely directed by the responses of the participants. Topics discussed include trade unions, working conditions, occupational injury, masculinity, politics, staff camaraderie, redundancy and periods of employment at different companies. There is a focus throughout the interviews on indicators and expression of masculine identity including alcohol consumption, paid employment and macho attitudes in the yards. The interviews also cover the workers' interactions with the trade union movement, focusing on their experiences of strike action. In addition, some of the key episodes in the Clyde’s shipbuilding history during the twentieth century are covered including: the closure of Harland and Wolff; the closure of Alexander Stephen and Sons; the Norwegian company Kvaerner’s takeover of the Fairfield yard from British Shipbuilders in 1988 and the withdrawal of Kvaerner from Govan in 1999 which threatened the existence of shipbuilding on the Clyde heading in to the twenty-first century.

Stride, Rory, fl. 2016, student at University of Strathclyde

Oral history project on women’s experiences of work and closure at James Templeton & Company Ltd, Glasgow, c. 1960-1981

  • GB 249 SOHC 32
  • Collection
  • May - September 2018

Oral history project, conducted in May - September 2018 by Rory Stride, with women formerly employed at James Templeton & Co., carpet manufacturers, between c. 1960 and 1981. A total of six women were interviewed. The interviews last approximately between 45 minutes and 1 hour 15 minutes and were conducted at a variety of places across Scotland. The interview questions were semi-structured and largely directed by the responses of the participants.

The interviews focus on the women’s working lives and their first experiences of employment after secondary school but specifically exploring their experience of work at James Templeton & Co., the preeminent carpet manufacturers in Glasgow during the 1960s and 1970s. The company had seven factories, located in the east end and southside of Glasgow with the company’s Crown Street factory being the last to close in early 1981 when Templeton Carpets amalgamated with Stoddard Carpets. Topics discussed include trade unions, working conditions, gender divisions in labour, staff camaraderie, management and staff relationships, and periods of redundancy, unemployment and re-employment after leaving James Templeton & Co. The interviews also cover the women's feelings and opinions regarding the gentrification and redevelopment of the former headquarters and factory of James Templeton & Co. located at Templeton Street on the north eastern edge of Glasgow Green.

University of Strathclyde | Scottish Oral History Centre

Scottish Oral History Centre Archive

  • GB 249 SOHC
  • Collection
  • c. 1981 - present

The Scottish Oral History Centre Archive is an extensive collection of oral history recordings focussing on the history of work, occupational health and the social impact of de-industrialisation. Most of the recordings originate from projects carried out by Scottish Oral History Centre staff and students but there are also large collections of interviews originating from other organisations, for example Glasgow Museums and the Scottish Working People’s History Trust.

University of Strathclyde | Scottish Oral History Centre

Voices from the Yard oral history project

  • GB 249 SOHC 46
  • Collection
  • September - November 1989

Oral history project conducted in 1989 by Glasgow Museums with eight former workers in the Clydeside shipbuilding industry. The project documents, from the workers' own perspectives, life in Glasgow's shipbuilding industry in the 1930s and 1940s, and includes their recollections of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Based along the river Clyde in the west of Scotland, the Glasgow shipbuilding industry grew dramatically in the late 19th century, becoming one of the world's major centres of shipbuilding construction, employing tens of thousands of people in a host of different firms, constructing ocean liners, steamships and battleships, for export around the world. At the turn of the 20th century, Glasgow was responsible for a large proportion of the world's ship production. After suffering a severe downturn during the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Glasgow shipbuilding industry went into terminal decline in the post-war decades, and by the 1990s was at a fraction of its former capacity.

The interviewees held the following occupations within the shipbuilding industry:

  • shipwright/boilermaker
  • 2 x shipyard blacksmith
  • 2 x shipwright
  • caulker
  • ship's plumber
  • marine engineer
    In addition, one of the interviewees (Pat McChrystal) describes in detail a myriad of other roles, and the overall process of ship construction.

The interviews reference a range of shipbuilding companies on the Clyde, including Fairfields, Alexander Stephen & Sons, and Harland & Wolff. As most interviewees spent most of their working lives in the industry, interviews chart the career trajectories of workers, often involving changes of role and employer, including time spent in the broader industrial marine ecology of the Clyde, such as the merchant navy and ship repairers. Comments are also made on wages, hours of work, the hierarchy within jobs, and differences in skilled/semi-skilled labour.

Most of the interviewees started their working lives in the 1930s and 1940s in the shipyards. Although the interviewees talk about their working lives across the decades, most of the specific detail focuses on their experiences in the yards in the 1930s and 1940s. The impact of the Great Depression of the 1930s is a notable feature of the material, and this period's effect on the shipbuilding industry on the Clyde is described. In particular, the interviewees outline the personal impact of the collapse in shipbuilding, describing the impact of periods of prolonged unemployment. The development of cycling and hostelling around Scotland as a popular leisure activity for unemployed men in the 1930s is also featured.

One interview is with Andy McMahon, a former shipbuilder, who was also the Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP) for Govan, between 1979 and 1983. Leaving school at 14, McMahon became an apprentice in the Fairfield shipyard in the early 1930s and later became a trade union shop steward. McMahon describes his periods of unemployment during the depression of the 1930s, and details his emerging political consciousness in the shipyards in this period, which included membership of the Communist Party and being blacklisted for political activism.

The interviews cover the entrance of the worker into the shipbuilding industry, which was typically on leaving school, aged 14 or 15. The interviewees discuss parental attitudes towards employment, as well as the influence of fathers - who typically were also employed in the shipyards - in securing work. All entrants to the shipyards underwent a 5 year apprenticeship, leading to a skilled trade, and this apprenticeship period is heavily described in the material, including entrance examinations, rival gang fights, an apprentice strike in the 1930s, and the impact of the Great Depression.

The interviews also document everyday experiences in the workplace environment. There is material on interviewees' day-to-day routines, detailing the challenges and tasks required by specific roles within the shipbuilding process, often going into detail regarding specific industrial techniques, typically involving skilled manual labour. Interviews also cover the various tools and equipment used to perform specific roles, and comment is often made on the provision and availability of tools. Interviewees frequently discuss how they were expected to make their own tools. The impact of new technology in the shipbuilding industry is also touched upon.

The interviews also provide details of the working conditions in the shipyards. Interviewees often describe the conditions of the shipyards which they encountered on leaving school and starting work there. Frequent comment is made on the physical conditions of life in the shipyards (noise levels, extreme heat, working outdoors in winter etc), the provision of specialist equipment (or lack of), and the various strategies adopted to ameliorate demanding conditions. The sheer physical demands of the work is often commented on, and the provision of on-site facilities (eg. canteens, toilets) - or lack of - is also outlined. Interviews also cover the health and safety procedures (or lack of) in the shipyards, describing workplace accidents, workplace risks to injury, and exposure to hazardous substances, including asbestos.

The interviews also document industrial relations within the shipyards. Interviewees discuss their relationships with management, the distinct dress codes of different groups, and management attitudes towards workers. Interviewees also outline their relationships with foremen, who were responsible for day-to-day oversight of ship workers, described by one interviewee as "very powerful". Discussion also takes place on workplace discipline, and penalties for infringements. Interviews also feature material on the development of trade union activity in the shipyards, as well as the campaigns for improved wages and conditions in the 1930s. Workers also discuss their myriad grievances in relation to their working conditions: no teabreaks, low wages, no pension, no holiday pay, lack of tools, "hire and fire" culture. Some interviewees also reference Catholic/Protestant relations in the shipyards, detailing practices of discrimination and sectarian attitudes.

Some of the interviews feature life in the shipyards during WWII. Interviewees discuss the "boom time" of the industry, the changing focus towards warships and merchant fleet, and the new influx of people into shipbuilding. In particular, comment is made on the arrival of women workers in the shipyards during WWII, undertaking traditionally male roles.

Glasgow Museums